Entertaining can be full of challenges whether youre the guest or host. Those challenges may increase if food allergies, food intolerances and special diets, perhaps vegan or vegetarian, are in the mealtime mix.
Your vegan brother wont eat a dessert that uses honey. A lactose-intolerant cousin will pass on the butter.
When it comes to an allergy, your immune system is involved. It can be as simple as having an itch or rash and potentially lead to a life-threatening reaction where you stop breathing. So an allergy is something that is much more severe, said Vandana Sheth, a California-based registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and representative for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
With a food intolerance, on the other hand, its more that your bodys not able to process specific things, says Sheth. With lactose intolerance, for example, the most common intolerance that people have, youre not involving the entire immune system.
Dozens of foods or food groups can cause allergies, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But the eight major allergens are milk, eggs, fish (e.g. bass, cod), crustacean shellfish (e.g. shrimp, lobster, crab), tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. The FDA requires food labels to list them.
Those with allergies or food intolerances or who follow a special diet know what foods cause problems. Friends or relatives may not. They may not realize there can be eggs in mayonnaise or wheat in soy sauce, or that there are alternatives available.
Avoiding confusion begins with the person with dietary considerations. Touch base with the host before a gathering that will include a meal or snacks, says Sheth, and be as specific as you can about what you can and cant eat.
A guest might say, Ive become vegetarian, and I should be able to eat most of the things, but if youve used chicken broth or something, I may not eat it. Please dont be offended. Can I bring something? she suggested. That way, youve let them know you dont want to put pressure on them to make a whole entree thats vegetarian for you and that you can bring that.
If youre the host, find out if any guest has food allergies or sensitivities. When you are preparing the menu, consider items that will work for everyone rather than making several different versions.
When youre cooking and trying to keep food safe, people dont think about using that same wooden spoon or cutting board for preparing foods that might cause problems, Sheth says.
Host-guest conversations have to be comfortable for both parties.
The host might be freaking out with all these different restrictions. So as a guest, try to be more understanding, Sheth says. Realize ultimately, its your responsibility to ensure that what youre eating is safe.